Rabbeinu Chananel

Chananel ben Chushiel lived mostly in the 11th and was a great scholar, mostly on the Talmud. His work is located on many pages of the Talmud in Moed, Nashim and Nezikin. He studied at his father’s school in Kairouan and was popularly known as Rabbeinu Chananel (our teacher/rabbi Chananel).  

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Rabbeinu Chananel was highly interested in the stories from Sanhedrin and Sukkot, specifically on the individuals, R’ Simeon bar Yochai and Elazar ben Simeon. It is Rabbeinu Chananel who, disagreeing with the Yad Ramah, teaches that R’ Simeon bar Yochai was implying that these number righteous men exist only in his own generation. This gave even more respect to R’ Simeon bar Yochai, eliminating the potential future Lamed Vavnickim. Rabbeinu Chananel also brings into question the authority of Abaye and Rava, the authors of the two accounts of R’ Simeon bar Yochai (quoting the Artscroll Schottenstein Talmud Sukkah 45b):

Why does the Gemara question a statement of R’ Simeon bar Yochai on the basis of the words of Rava and Abaye, who lived long after R’ Shimon, and whose authority was far less than his? He explains that Rava and Abaye were not the originators of these statements; they were simply transmitting the traditional knowledge that had been passed down to them from the prophets of earlier generations. After all, one cannot acquire knowledge of these esoteric matters on one’s own; it must be received from one’s teachers. The Gemara’s reliance on the statements of Abaye and Rava testifies to the validity of their oral traditions.

It seems Rabbein Chananel believed strongly in R’ Simeon bar Yochai importance and the accuracy of the accounts of the Lamed Vavnickim. 600 years after Abaye and Rava’s accounts were recorded, Rabbeinu Chananel confirms the belief that the 36 Righteous Men of God exists/existed. Rabbeinu Chananel might have believed that R’ Simeon bar Yochai was the last account of the Lamed Vavnickim, but their existence was still known and accepted in the 11th century. The passion for writing about the life of R’ Simeon bar Yochai, in both commentaries, leads me to believe one of two things; he wanted to protect R’ Simeon bar Yochai’s legacy and for whatever reason he was compelled to glorify R’ Simeon bar Yochai. Or Rabbeinu Chananel knew of other Lamed Vavnickim in his generation and he desired to keep these more recent Lamed Vavnickim a secret by ending the legacy with R’ Simeon bar Yochai.